VII Manchester Talk May 31, 2012
Transfigured perception has the clarity and fertility of an imagination purged of many of the distortions of self-consciousness. Transfigured perception eventuates in true effacement of self which, it should be noted, is something that is effected in the subject as opposed to violence that the subject does to him or her self.
The most a person can do to engage the work of silence is to turn attention away from distraction to wait in attentive receptivity for the gift of elision of self-consciousness to be given, to receive the clear discernment of disinterested action or non-action. Humility and humiliation are antonyms. This is not stoicism, so-called quietism, or the ennui of fatalism, but a highly subversive point of view. It is an attitude that eventuates in the two epistemologies working together in a seamless flow, with the deep mind predominating.
But knowledge of the work of silence and the human capacity for it are in danger of extinction. Since the death of Nicholas of Cusa in 1464 the mind's work with silence, the alembic in which the interpretive process called experience is refined and purified, has been for the most part forgotten. Indeed, from the end of the Council of Constance in 1418, the church actively suppressed the mind's work with silence with increasing violence. This was not a new policy but rather the heightened expression of a death-dealing tendency always present in institutions and those who support them. It gained significant momentum in the ninth century through the work of Paschasius Radbertus. Paschasius' materialising of eucharistic theology shifted liturgical and ascetical focus from deep mind back to the self-conscious mind. One cannot help but surmise that Eriugena translated Pseudo-Denys as a direct riposte to Paschasius.
Paschasius' influence unhappily converged with certain historical trends that arose in the following two hundred years. His magical thinking became dogma, effecting a permanent, destructive, and so far irreversible shift in the entire psychology of the West. Rachel Fulton of the University of Chicago has written an exhaustive account in her book, From Judgement to Passion. A more accessible and well researched account is found in Brock and Parker's Saving Paradise. These authors have shown how the appalling atonement theology that came to dominance in the West and still perdures emerged as a direct consequence of Paschasius' magical thinking. Margaret Barker has shown that this atonement theology is in fact opposite to that of the First Temple rite of atonement, which sought to effect a transfiguration of the mind and a healing of the breach between human beings and nature. This was the theology and practice Jesus and his followers sought to revive. But Christianity today for all practical purposes is opposite to what Jesus taught and to the church's liturgical and therefore theological focus for the first nine centuries.